Theres a serene corner of Crestview Country Clubs North course thats easily seen from the intersection of 13th and 127th Street East.
Its the 15th green, a sloping putting surface with two back bunkers fronted by a narrow pond.
No. 17, with its caddie races and cheeseburgers-for-birdies celebrations, may be the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Opens signature hole. But the 15th was the site of the turning point in 27-year-old Casey Wittenbergs second Nationwide Tour victory of the season on Sunday.
Wittenberg seized sole possession of the lead from playing partner Jim Herman with an 18-foot par save, then added a 15-foot birdie putt on the following hole to fuel a two-shot victory over Herman and Justin Hicks.
Wittenberg, who lives in Memphis, Tenn., carded a 5-under-par 66 in the final round for a 72-hole total of 266 18 under to earn the $108,000 winners check. The former Oklahoma State golfer became the tours first two-time winner this year and continued an impressive June run that included a tie for 10th in last weeks U.S. Open.
I was just fortunate enough to have a few more putts drop and a few more shots get a little bit closer than everybody else this week, said Wittenberg, who won the Chitimacha Louisiana Open for his first career victory in March. Its hard to win a golf tournament out here.
Wittenberg will get no argument from Herman, who started the day with a two-shot lead in his quest for a second tour victory. Herman played solidly for most of the tournament, making just one bogey in 3½ rounds. But after owning the tournaments 36- and 54-hole leads, Hermans Waterloo came at the 391-yard 15th, when he sank his approach shot in the pond and made a double bogey.
You play 68 holes and it comes down to one mistake, said Herman, who also bogeyed No. 16 before finishing with two birdies to match Hicks at 16 under. Thats why we hate this game and love this game.
Wittenberg, who moved to second on the Nationwide money list behind Paul Haley II, put some early heat on Herman with birdies on the first two holes. But he had to regroup after a bogey at the 468-yard sixth when his ball moved as he took his backswing on a birdie attempt.
I got a bad break on the sixth hole and essentially gave a shot back to the field, said Wittenberg, who discussed the ruling on the green with a rules official. Sometimes thats just the way it works out.
We just tried to put our heads down and make some birdies, and try to go win the golf tournament and not let it come to me.
Hicks, who played one group in front of Wittenberg and Herman, was the first to catch Herman on Sunday. Just before Herman made his first bogey of the round at the par-3 12th, Hicks rolled in his fourth birdie of the day at the par-4 13th to get a share of the lead at 16 under.
But Hicks gave the stroke back on the par-5 14th when he failed to save par from a greenside bunker. He also parred the par-5 18th, leaving him 1 over in the final round on the tournaments two easiest holes.
No. 14 and No. 18, those are holes where youre thinking birdie all day long, said Hicks, who posted a 67. Sometimes you make them on the harder ones and not so much on the easier ones. We played some good golf and just came up a little short.
Wittenberg, who tied for third in putting during the week with 27.5 putts per round, made three of at least 15 feet on the final six holes. He matched Hermans birdie at No. 13 with a 20-footer, then added the pivotal par save at No. 15. When he rolled in his final birdie at No. 16, Wittenberg owned a two-shot lead on Hicks and was four clear of Herman.
Two pars punctuated Wittenbergs second consecutive Sunday of memorable golf. The previous week, the 2003 U.S. Amateur runner-up played with Tiger Woods in the final round of the U.S. Open, and pocketed more than $163,000 with his top-10 finish.
Its been a great two weeks, Wittenberg said. Its two totally different beasts, to be honest. The U.S. Open is hard, its stressful, there are a lot of people out there. Its one of those golf tournaments that, if you dont put it in play and hit some shots where you want to go, its just too hard.
But I did feel like being there last week, playing on a hard golf course, having to tighten up my lines and having my coach (Adam Schriber) with me I feel like it got me prepared for this week.
Notes Wittenberg missed the cut in both of his two previous Wichita Open appearances (2008 and 10). Haley, who tied for ninth at 11 under, stayed atop the Nationwide money list with $244,234. Wittenberg climbed to $240,019. Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen tied for 40th at 6 under. World Golf Hall of Famer Juli Inkster was in the gallery Sunday, following friend Jeff Brehaut. Inkster will return to the LPGA Tour this week after undergoing elbow surgery in January. The tour moves to Evansville, Ind., this week for a new event, the United Leasing Championship.